Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula.
The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
The story is told in epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and ships’ log entries, whose narrators are the novel’s protagonists, and occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings relating events not directly witnessed. The events portrayed in the novel take place chronologically and largely in England and Transylvania during the 1890s and all transpire within the same year between the 3rd of May and the 6th of November. A short note is located at the end of the final chapter written 7 years after the events outlined in the novel.
The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, visiting Count Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker’s employer, Mr Peter Hawkins of Exeter. At first enticed by Dracula’s gracious manners, Harker soon realizes that he is Dracula’s prisoner. Wandering the Count’s castle against Dracula’s admonition, Harker encounters three female vampires, called “the sisters”, from whom he is rescued by Dracula. After the preparations are made, Dracula leaves Transylvania and abandons Harker to the sisters. Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life.
Not long afterward, a Russian ship, the Demeter, having weighed anchor at Varna, runs aground on the shores of Whitby in the east coast of England. The captain’s log narrates the gradual disappearance of the entire crew, until the captain alone remained, himself bound to the helm to maintain course. An animal resembling “a large dog” is seen leaping ashore. The ship’s cargo is described as silver sand and 50 boxes of “mould”, or earth, from Transylvania. It is later learned that Dracula successfully purchased multiple estates under the alias ‘Count De Ville’ throughout London and devised to distribute the 50 boxes to each of them utilizing transportation services as well as moving them himself. He does this to secure for himself “lairs” and the 50 boxes of earth would be used as his graves which would grant safety and rest during times of feeding and replenishing his strength.
Soon Dracula is indirectly shown to be stalking Lucy Westenra, who is holidaying in Whitby. As time passes she begins to suffer from episodes of sleepwalking and dementia, as witnessed by her friend Mina Murray, the fiancée of Jonathan Harker. Lucy receives three marriage proposals from Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood (the son of Lord Godalming who later obtains the title himself). Lucy accepts Holmwood’s proposal while turning down Seward and Morris, but all remain friends. Dracula communicates with Seward’s patient Renfield, an insane man who wishes to consume insects, spiders, birds, and rats to absorb their “life force”. Renfield is able to detect Dracula’s presence and supplies clues accordingly.
When Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously, Seward invites his old teacher, Abraham Van Helsing, who immediately determines the true cause of Lucy’s condition. He refuses to disclose it but diagnoses her with acute blood-loss. Helsing prescribes numerous blood transfusions to which Dr. Seward, Helsing, Quincey and Arthur all contribute over time. Helsing also prescribes flowers to be placed throughout her room and weaves a necklace of withered Garlic Blossoms for her to wear as well. She however continues to waste away – appearing to lose blood every night. While both doctors are absent, Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf; Mrs. Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright. Van Helsing attempts to protect her with garlic but fate thwarts him each night, whether Lucy’s mother removes the garlic from her room, or Lucy herself does so in her restless sleep. The doctors have found two small puncture marks about her neck, which Dr. Seward is at a loss to understand. After Lucy dies, Helsing places a golden crucifix over her mouth, ostensibly to delay or prevent Lucy’s vampiric conversion. Fate conspires against him again when Helsing finds the crucifix in the possession of one of the servants who stole it off Lucy’s corpse.
Following Lucy’s death and burial, the newspapers report children being stalked in the night by a “bloofer lady” (i.e., “beautiful lady”). Van Helsing, knowing Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Lord Godalming, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down and, after a confrontation with her, stake her heart, behead her, and fill her mouth with garlic. Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives from Budapest, where Mina marries him after his escape, and he and Mina join the campaign against Dracula.
The vampire hunters stay at Dr. Seward’s residence, holding nightly meetings and providing reports based on each of their various tasks. Mina discovers that each of their journals and letters collectively contain clues to which they can track him down. She tasks herself with collecting them, researching newspaper clippings, fitting the most relevant entries into chronological order and typing out copies to distribute to each of the party which they are to study. Jonathan Harker tracks down the shipments of boxed graves and the estates which Dracula has purchased in order to store them. Van Helsing conducts research along with Dr. Seward to analyze the behaviour of their patient Renfield who they learn is directly influenced by Dracula. They also research historical events, folklore, and superstitions from various cultures to understand Dracula’s powers and weaknesses. Van Helsing also establishes a criminal profile on Dracula in order to better understand his actions and predict his movements. Arthur Holmwood’s fortune assists in funding the entire operation and expenses. As they learn the various properties Dracula had purchased, the male protagonists team up to raid each property and are several times confronted by Dracula. As they discover each of the boxed graves scattered throughout London, they pry them open to place and seal wafers of sacramental bread within. This act renders the boxes of earth completely useless to Dracula as he is unable to open, enter or further transport them.
After Dracula learns of the group’s plot against him, he attacks Mina on three occasions, and feeds Mina his own blood to control her. This curses Mina with vampirism and changes her but does not completely turn her into a vampire. Van Helsing attempts to bless Mina through prayer and by placing a wafer of sacrament against her forehead, although it burns her upon contact leaving a wretched scar. Under this curse, Mina oscillates from consciousness to a semi-trance during which she perceives Dracula’s surroundings and actions. Van Helsing is able to use hypnotism at the hour of dawn and put her into this trance to further track his movements. Mina, afraid of Dracula’s link with her, urges the team not to tell her their plans out of fear that Dracula will be listening. After the protagonists discover and sterilize 49 boxes found throughout his lairs in London, they learn that Dracula has fled with the missing 50th box back to his castle in Transylvania. They pursue him under the guidance of Mina. They split up into teams once they reach Europe; Van Helsing and Mina team up to locate the castle of Dracula while the others attempt to ambush the boat Dracula is using to reach his home. Van Helsing raids the castle and destroys the vampire “sisters”. Upon discovering Dracula being transported by Gypsies, Harker shears Dracula through the throat with a kukri while the mortally wounded Quincey stabs the Count in the heart with a Bowie knife. Dracula crumbles to dust, and Mina is freed from her curse of vampirism.
The book closes with a note left by Jonathan Harker seven years after the events of the novel, detailing his married life with Mina and the birth of their son, whom they name after all four members of the party, but address as “Quincey”. Quincey is depicted sitting on the knee of Van Helsing as they recount their adventure.